|English: In January 2009, President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
A Wikipedia article defines "dysfunctional family" as such:
A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal. Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of co-dependent adults, and may also be affected by addictions, such as substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.).
So what becomes of someone who was raised in a dysfunctional family? The counseling center at the University of Illinois provides one take on this question:
"Many people hope that once they leave home, they will leave their family and childhood problems behind. However, many find that they experience similar problems, as well as similar feelings and relationship patterns, long after they have left the family environment...Children growing up in such families are likely to develop low self esteem and feel that their needs are not important or perhaps should not be taken seriously by others."
Often people who were raised in a dysfunctional family will look for support groups. If the dysfunctional aspect of the family dynamic included an alcoholic parent or parents, then the "survivor" might seek out Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA). ACA or ACOA is an anonymous Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition program of women and men who grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes.
You might be wondering why today we are featuring adult children of alcoholics; the reason is twofold:
- Recovery is important for every member of the family, not just the one who suffers from the disease of alcoholism or addiction.
- A new memoir by Ann Miketa has just been published that deals with growing up in an alcoholic family and the role this pathology plays in one's life.
"A dark humored memoir, “Formerly Known as Tank” paints a realistic portrait of life under the haze of alcoholism and addiction. Miketa offers readers hilarious anecdotes alongside serious thoughts about addiction that exemplify survival under the most challenging circumstances."
If you have some time for yourself this summer, you might also like to read Olympian Leah Pell's "Not About The Medal." Ms. Pell's memoir was published this past April and she wrote to deliver a message of hope to all children and adults who were or are being raised by an alcoholic.
One final note: we often have the misconception that adult children of alcoholics cannot possibly lead successful lives or never quite find happiness, but as The Miami Herald's Frida Ghitis points out when reviewing David Maraniss' new book Barack Obama: The Story...
In the background of all but one American president in the last 30 years, alcoholism has figured prominently, usually as the poisonous potion that helped destroy father-son bonds. Perhaps it worked by creating effort to replace those missing bonds, or maybe to impress the ghost of the absent father. Or maybe it was the product of strong maternal figures that helped raise confident young men who then grew up with the belief and the emotional strength to take the top job in the world’s most powerful nation.
Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., the Kenyan student who traveled to Hawaii and met Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, promptly disappeared from his son’s life and eventually destroyed his own, dying in a car crash in a haze of alcoholism.
Bill Clinton’s father, William Jefferson Blythe, also died after a crash three months before his son was born. The young Bill inherited his first and middle name, but took the last name of the man his mother later married, another alcoholic who abused Bill’s mother.
Ronald Reagan’s father, Jack, as his mother Nelled explained to him as a child, had a “sickness,” Reagan wrote, that’s “why my father sometimes disappeared.” That sickness was “an addiction to alcohol.”
Adult Children of Alcoholics can and do find recovery and support. Start your summer reading list!